Fine Print Worth Reading

Last week we reported that the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee approved the full $475 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as part of its Fiscal Year 2010 spending bill.

In the lead-up to Congressional consideration of President Obama’s proposed funding for the new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, several Great Lakes thinkers have stressed that the funding shouldn’t just support status quo, that the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy needs revisiting, and overall that the new initiative should make our efforts smarter, not just bigger – all valid points.

That is why I want to share the committee report language (the “fine print”) that accompanied the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill last week. The last part of that report addresses many of the concerns that have been raised. It reads:

“As mentioned above, the Committee directs EPA to develop a comprehensive restoration action plan using the 2005 Collaboration Strategy as its base. This plan should help to inform funding decisions in fiscal year 2011 and the outyears and should include the following:

(1) An explanation of the process established by EPA to collaborate with States and non-federal partners to guide implementation of the restoration initiative;
(2) Targets and measurable objectives that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative expects to achieve over the next five fiscal years beginning in fiscal year 2010;
(3) A description of the process that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will use to track and measure progress, including an explanation of the means by which EPA will use scientific research to target restoration priorities and adapt and modify activities in fiscal years 2011;
(4) A description of the funding provided by the Committee to EPA and other Federal agencies to support Great Lakes restoration activities, including information comparing funding and programs supported from one year to the next (e.g. in fiscal year 2009 to programs in fiscal year 2010); and
(5) A description of efforts to coordinate restoration activities in the U.S. with those of the Canadian and provincial governments.”

At the end of the day I think we all want to ensure the funds are spent wisely on what matters most. This committee language holds promise toward that end, and the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition intends to help EPA follow through on it. Let’s not just compete for similar funding levels in future years; more importantly, let’s achieve tangible results for the health of our Great Lakes and our communities.

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